I don’t know about you but sometimes I feel like my ears are getting fat.
Occasionally this gets on my nerves and I endeavour to shift a bit of weight. The problem is that it’s an over indulgence in music that is to blame. Recently I had to go without a means of listening to music whilst out and about. For the first few days I was quite enjoying the sounds of nature (traffic, strange people shouting, planes overhead, the usual London mix) but then I really started craving my audio fix. As a stopgap, I ran out and bought an extra cheap no-brand mp3 player (I’m playing to converge my failing phone and broken ipod into one glorious item as soon as possible) to keep me going.
This lead to one particularly amusing problem.
The pause button resets the playlist and the thing does not have a display, or a shuffle option – it plays whatever is on it, alphabetically. This lead to a bunch of confused mornings, and a load of head scratching. But it also lead to the Music Diet – which had been brewing in the back of my mind for a long time.
It’s not uncommon for people who are really into fine food to say something along the lines of “I propose that we become a healthier nation by eating a smaller quantity of higher quality food” – which I assume to mean things like, swapping a a couple of burgers a week for one decent steak. There’s a health element, but it’s also a way of maintaining your enthusiasm for a pleasant experience – if you do something all day everyday it becomes commonplace. If you can only do it once in your life, it becomes a rare and treasured experience.
Every few months I feel like I need this kind of diet for my ears – I’ve either been over-indulging in one particular artist or genre, or I’ve been gluttonous and chowing down way too much of everything. My main listening time these days is when I’m out walking – I like to try to get about an hour a day in, if I can. Good for the body and mind, and I just feel better in general while I keep this up.
I was listening to music that whole time, but recently I decided to diet – and just either enjoy the sounds of nature as I go, or think about music, rather than pump it in. It can be refreshing to imagine music instead of force it through your ears – it’s a gentler experience for sure, it takes more effort and thought, and for some it won’t work without some practice – but I love it, it’s like a refreshing pick-me-up for the music-muscles.
But, like with all diets, you can’t stay on it forever. We all have routines, and thinking of a diet as a change to that routine will mean you are going to give it up at some point, and go back to how you were.
I’d suggest that you try a few days of serious musical dieting – you might find some withdrawal symptoms kicking in when you go without listening to anything for a while…bit stick with it and it will rejuvenate your listening experience, and maybe even let your audio imagination stretch its muscles again.
David Learnt composition (harmony, counterpoint and orchestration) to degree level through studying Schoenbergs Fundamentals of Musical Composition. He is a founder member of Avant Pop duo Cnut, and orchestral doombience outfit Regolith.
Make Better Music is updated every Tuesday. For previous articles search for ‘Dave Graham‘
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